Martha A. Nordstrand
was born in the Deep South to a family of quiltmakers, needleworkers
and dedicated fabric and flower lovers. I have often said
that I was born with a needle in my hand. The truth is that
my grandmother placed it there when I was only three.
I spent hours in my favorite place, her scrap bag in the
closet; cutting and stitching little dresses and quilts
for my dolls. My grandmother made quilts for the love of
quilts and to provide coverings for beds and I cant
remember ever sleeping under a store- bought blanket. The
quilts she made were not only for the sake of beauty they
were for warmth or for pallets for the floor to use when
company came. Some of my most vivid childhood memories are
being under and on top of a Grandmother's Flower Garden
or Tumbling Blocks quilt.
Many years passed and I drifted from crochet and knitting
to embroidery and needlework. In school, I wanted to major
in art so I daubed in oils and watercolor, and sketching
but I found myself losing interest after a short time. I
did know enough about art to recognize bad art and so I
gave up dreams of being a great designer and artist.
I always seem to be drawn to fabrics and textiles and
my closet of fabrics was proof of that fact. I made simple
little ninepatch quilts for my daughter, baby quilts for
friends, a log cabin (didnt we all start there?) And
finally it dawned on me that I had taken a complete circle
back to where I started in my grandmothers scrap bag.
From that point, I tried everything to find where I belonged
in the quilting world. While I was wandering through this
wilderness, the fabrics changed from old browns and oranges
and yellows to the beautiful beginnings of the hand dyes
and selections we have today. The fabrics inspired and dictated
the direction of my quilting style.
Since I love flowers and gardening I found myself drawn
to applique. I tried some applique flowers but they were
too stylized and stiff and I wanted them to look just as
they grew in my garden. I poured over my horticultural books
and decided to attempt something new, flowers that look
like flowers. I also wanted to use embroidery stitches to
embellish and finish off the designs.
I have wandered through every type of applique style
piecing, paper piecing, freezer paper, needle turn and many
more conventional methods before I found my own style of
designing and interpreting flowers into fabric.. Inspired
by my late dear friend, Jessie Harrison, I finally developed
a technique using glue sticks and label paper that was simple
and precise to create the fine lines and delicate petals
Not everyone can be a great piecer, or a great machine
quilter, or great at appliqué. It is important they
we try to find what we really love doing and then do it!
Many years ago when my grandmother passed away, her belongings
were distributed to all the family. Silver, crystal, etc.,
but mine was the greatest of all; a simple quilt, a tablecloth
(both I watched come into being) and her precious bag of
fabric scraps. It was only appropriate that my first serious
quilt was a grandmothers flower garden. I now live
in a small townhouse with limited space; therefore, my quilts
are full of flowers that have become an extended garden.
I now sleep under my own "flower garden" of quilts,
which completes my circular journey from my modest beginnings.
After much experimentation, I finally implemented a new
way to prepare and apply appliqué pieces to background
fabrics. I love teaching and sharing this method with all
levels of quilt makers. In some ways it is revolutionary
and in others, it is very simple. Appliqué is still
my favorite style of quilt making.
I have been quilting off and on for over 50 years, but
seriously for the past 15. After movingto San Diego from
the San Francisco Bay area almost 9 years ago, I joined
my first guild. This was one of the wisest things I have
ever done. I have met some wonderful quiltmakers: old and
young, novices and veterans, but all beautiful needlework
artists. I have now relocated to Arizona and love the new
scenery, environment and weather!